This week, May 29 and 30 kicking off at 10 AM EST time, Julien’s Auctions will host the “Music Icons” exhibition, an astonishing journey through rock and music history featuring hundreds of guitars and instruments, a bastion of memorabilia, clothes and jewelry, signed items from the likes of Ringo Starr, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Mark Knopfler, Barbara Streisand, Annie Lennox, Kylie Minogue, Phil Collins and many more.

Music Icons: The Randy Bachman Collection (juliensauctions.com)

The whole auction lot features a who’s who of music icons, including, as well as the above, Queen, Dolly Parton, The Who, Amy Winehouse, The Beatles, Elvis Presley and more. Two of the artists with a heavy presence in the auction are Randy Bachman, of both Bachman-Turner Overdrive and The Guess Who, and former Lovin’ Spoonful frontman John Sebastian.

I spoke with both about their roles in the auction, why they chose to participate, how they picked the items they included and much more.

Steve Baltin: I imagine going through all these items from your history stirs up a lot of memories. What stood out the most to you looking through your history?

John Sebastian: I’d have to say that the Woodstock tie-dye jacket certainly has a special place because I just sort of put it on to go to go to see a show and the jacket ended up being more well-known than me, so It’s been a funny thing but a great thing. It was an amazing day that happened completely by accident. I had managed to get myself to the festival just because somebody with a helicopter that I knew was in the airport and took me to Woodstock and by Saturday, I was starting to feel pretty comfortable. I think there was a moment when Michael Lang and Chip Monk were standing on stage with me and I heard them talking and they were saying, “We really can’t put any band on the stage now because it’s too wet but we need a guy who could hold them with one acoustic guitar.” I’m listening to this conversation, nodding and then I turn and I realize they’re both looking at me. It was a complete surprise. I ran down into that sort of bottom area below the stage and borrowed a guitar from Timmy Harden so that I could fulfill their request.

Randy Bachman: Each guitar has a memory of the moment I purchased it, the songs I played and learned to play on it and the hit songs I recorded with them. Each one has a special feeing, memory and meaning,

Baltin: What prompted the idea for the auction?

Bachman: A couple of things that were out of my control that I had to learn to roll with. One, I had residences in Convent Garden-London, Santa Monica-CA, Oakville-Ontario and Victoria-BC. With the Covid travel restrictions, I couldn’t go anywhere for three years so I had my stuff from all those places shipped to me and sold the residences. I ended up with many toasters, many lawn mowers, dozens of pots and pans, dozens of TVs and hundreds of guitars. I hadn’t played most of the guitars in years as they were in The Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the National Music Archives in Calgary, Alberta. I had to rent a huge storage unit and sell many things off. This is a result of the evolution of the past three – five years.

Sebastian: I think it was just that the materials were sitting in my storage, and I was trying to think of something constructive to do and I realized that Ukraine could use a little bit of medical backup. So, this auction is basically for Ukrainian medical aid.

Baltin: How did you choose what went into the auction?

Bachman: I had already sold 350 Gretsch guitars to Fred Gretsch for the Gretsch Museum in Savannah, Georgia. Then I collected rare one-of-a-kind handcrafted German archtops made right after WW II by craftsmen who had trained at the Stradivari Institute in Cremona, Italy. They were trained to create violins, violas, cellos, stand up basses and switched to making guitars. Most symphony halls were destroyed during the war, but the jazz clubs thrived. Django Rheinhardt and other gypsy players kept them alive, and the archtop market thrived. Later as this swept the world, Gibson got into mass producing their “jazz” big body archtop guitars but they were all the same. The German guitars were made one at a time, usually by father-son craftsmen with naturally aged and cured woods and black-market ivory, abalone, rosewood, etc. Most were acoustic and made to project the rhythm guitar strums over the drums, piano, bass and singer. Later these acoustic guitars had pickups added to them to get even louder. These musical gems are each a work of art and craftsmanship that will never be seen again in the world. They are museum pieces, but can all be set up and played by anyone. They are great for photo shoots and videos. I picked many of these gems for sale and also kept the same amount for myself. Also, I’m selling my hit-making guitars. My 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard burst serial number 9 0319. with Bigsby that was my sound in The Guess Who on “No Time” and “American Woman.” Also, on many BTO tracks. My two white Fender Stratocasters were my main axes in BTO and played on all the albums and hit songs like “You Ain’t Seen Nothin Yet” and “Let It Ride.” To be sold, a twenty-fifth Anniversary Les Paul made out of fruitwood and pickguard autographed by Les Paul. A gifted Chet Atkins Gretsch Super Axe signed by Chet, a gifted Epiphone BB King signed, a gifted Telecaster signed by Bruce Springsteen, a gifted Epi Les Paul signed by Bob Seger, a gifted gold top Les Paul Epi Slash model signed by Slash. Many more amazing circa 57-58-59-60 Gibson’s, Les Paul’s, L-5s etc.

Sebastian: Yeah, I had to organize the stuff and you know put it in a nice canvas closet so that it would not desiccate or whatever. That was pretty much it.

Baltin: Do you feel like doing an auction like this gives you more control of what happens with your legacy as you are controlling the auction versus someone else?

Sebastian: I guess it’s one of the one of the things we deal with. I did enjoy getting it out of the hands of the so-called Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And what can I say from here on that we’re going to see who’s interested.

Bachman: Yes, and to sell the first batch in a two-day event will ease the pain of separation rather than one at a time and dragging it out and on and on,

Baltin: As music fans if you could go through an auction of any other musician’s items who would it be and why?

Bachman: Any musician who touched me with their music, song, playing. Music is what makes the world a better place, the musicians are messengers of love, joy, happiness and magic. I’d be happy to get any reminder of [Jimi] Hendrix, [Eric] Clapton, Joe Walsh, Jimmy Page, Beatles, Chuck Berry, Elvis [Presley], on and on and on.

Sebastian: That’s really interesting. I’m certainly a fan of some of the great men and women that I’ve played with over the years. I don’t know if it causes me to want an item of theirs. Ownership is you have to keep it and do something with it. I’m really glad to pass it on to folks who might be interested.

Baltin: As you prep for the auction have you been surprised by the interest in music memorabilia?

Bachman: Yes and no. After the initial surprise by the interest, I realize that the world and each one of us has changed drastically and radically in the past three – five years. Every life, business, country, family, music and all has had forced shifts in surviving and going forward into a “Brave New World” where no one can predict what tomorrow will bring. Therefore, every yesterday was part of the “good old days,” the “happy days,” which we long for but will never come back. So, getting a souvenir of the happy days to cherish and keep the memories alive is very important to many people. There are also many more millionaires and billionaires from the internet and computer, gaming industry with millions to spend and want something special and the ‘bragging rights” that go with it. Sooner or later your kids grow up and leave home just as you and I did, and now it’s time for me to let my “children” go and hope they find a home where they will be cherished, played, loved and put to work making great music to rock the world. Keep the ROCK ROLLING!!

Sebastian: I was amazed looking at Julian’s auction catalog of everybody else not me, and there was a little temptation watching Waylan Jennings Telecaster go by. I would certainly mention that this Rosewood j200 that I’m putting up for auction is a beast! It’s really a great guitar, and If I didn’t have another great big beast of a guitar, I probably wouldn’t let go of it. I was at this perfect place at a NAMM show with Gibson’s Acoustic division President talking about 75 J-200 they assembled for this particular NAMM show because it was the seventy-fifth anniversary of the J-200 and as I stood there and talked to him and that while I was talking, I was going down the row playing every guitar I could touch and that particular instrument is a unique guitar and I used it on a project with David Grisman. I certainly played it with my jug band over the years and it’s just a great big fun guitar.



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